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'Inside Llewyn Davis': Carey Mulligan on singing and working with the Coens

British actress Carey Mulligan attends the premiere of 'Inside Llewyn Davis' during the London Film Festival in central London on October 15, 2013.
British actress Carey Mulligan attends the premiere of 'Inside Llewyn Davis' during the London Film Festival in central London on October 15, 2013.

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Actress Carey Mulligan joins host Alex Cohen to discuss her new film, "Inside Llewyn Davis", by filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen. It's about a struggling folk singer named Llewyn Davis, who just can't seem to catch a break. Mulligan plays a fellow folkie along with co-star Justin Timberlake.


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Interview Highlights:

On singing for the role:
"When we got together to talk about the song I understood that I was just harmonizing the whole way through, but when got to filming on the day, Joel came up to me and said, just sing that one line on your own. And I was like, no! That isn't part of the deal, you didn't tell me I was going to do that. But I did. There ya go."

On performing the music for a live audience: 
"I think it was great for us, because we were performing live to the camera and to a bunch of people that we'd never met and what felt like an audience. But we sort of relished that opportunity as opposed to being fearful of it. We loved our trio and we loved our little homage to Peter, Paul and Mary, and we sort of played that up and had fun with it."

On learning about the New York folk scene: 
"It was so interesting to learn about these people because they were so solely driven to do this thing, so passionate to be authentic, but no one was watching. No one cared. The outside world was not remotely interested in folk music. They had to battle to be put on stage. They were only given gigs at the gaslight in between beat poet performances and they were used at a change over. They were only allowed to play as long as it took to clear out people to bring in the next crowd to listen to the poetry. 

"It wasn't popular at all, and that was so interesting to learn about, because you see what they started and all the people that followed them and the musicians that I listen to now that were so influenced by them. So it was a part of history that completely passed me by until I got to work on this film."

On how her parents reacted to her pursuit of acting:
"I decided I wanted to be an actor when I was quite young and then sort of started pursuing it. I was dying to go to drama school, I wanted to train to be a theater actress. My parents felt nervous about it, understandably, and in retrospect of course they did. At the time I was incensed and furious and couldn't understand why they weren't immediately supportive and sent me to drama school, but they certainly didn't want to encourage me into a career that was potentially so unstable."

On playing a rougher female role in "Llewyn": 
"I came straight off Gatsby, got off a plane to Australia and flew to New York and started filming there, so it's always the case that when you're doing a play you want desperately to do a film and vice versa. It's the same with doing Gatsby, when I finished that I felt the perfect contradiction was to go on and play this character in the Coen Bros film. After six months of dressing up in beautiful dresses and hair and makeup and wearing diamonds to throw on a dark wig and no makeup and march around and swear and scream at the top of my lungs. 

"It always seemed to be the case on set that I would try something and they would encourage me to be more unpleasant, or swear more. I think they got a kick out of it. Also I'd worked with Oscar Isaacs before, we played husband and wife in Drive a couple of years ago, so I had a comfort level with him to know and actor then to go and work with them again, so that was enormously helpful.'